The Meaning of Tea

I decided this year that my birthday party needed to be a Mad Tea Unbirthday Party. This idea really has nothing to do with the new Tim Burton Alice, though it has been helpful in finding Alice themed merchandise. On my quest for tea cups, I found a lovely antiques store in Buda, Texas called, appropriately, “The Looking Glass,” which, appropriately, sells some Alice stuffins and all sorts of tea related products. I’d never stopped to consider why tea, what is its mystique?

There is a book, which I haven’t read, by Phil Cousineau called The Meaning of Tea. I follow the Twitter, and every now and then I’m stumped as to how to have a zen moment from tea. Today’s shopping excursion answered that question for me. Right now, we’re in that annoying transition phase between summer and full-blown fall. That autumn crispness is in the air, but the temperature hasn’t caught up yet. There’s something about this particular season that causes me to want to reach for the tea cup instead of the coffee cup. There’s also something about having a bunch of people over for cakes and finger sandwiches and tea, rather than coffee.

So, I came away from the shopping experience with a tea for one Alice in Wonderland set and an Alice tiered serving set. Having a tea-for-one set makes me want to drink tea, and sit outside on my porch with a good book or my laptop either reading or writing, but not reading or writing e-mails. Something about a cup of tea is inspiring, whereas a cup of coffee is functional – it’s what you drink to get through a deadline or ready for an exam. So, with my tea-for-one set in hand, I’m ready for tomorrow’s big dissertation private launch party. But almost more importantly, one month from today, as I pass out candies to local trick-or-treaters, I’ll be outlining this years NaNoWriMo novel project and, hopefully, with tea at my side, I will finish this year’s book.

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Disneyland and dissertating

October 1 is right around the corner. That means hardly anything for you, except maybe a paycheck and a season change, but for me, October 1 marks the beginning of the most difficult project I have ever endeavored: the Dissertation. While I’m confident that my dissertation-writing process won’t be nearly as painful as the fabled stereotypical experience, I am nonetheless intimidated by the process. The original reason this blog exists was to have a place to document RoundTable business for my Joseph Campbell Foundation RoundTable. I’m in the process of passing that hat to someone else, leaving me with a blog with a paid domain name without an otherwise specific purpose. I thought I would attempt to blog about the process with some sort of daily (or at least weekly) check-in, and maybe someone out there in Cyberland will read it, making the process a little less lonely.

My dissertation topic is fun—Disneyland and American myth. While that could be a huge endeavor, there’s no way possible to make Disneyland not fun. Sure, there are many out there who don’t care for it. To those people, I offer a Mickey Mouse Balloon and a lolly. The real challenge is writing about American myth. It’s easy to identify the stories in the culture that comprise the mythos, but to get at the real heart of the mythic symbolism—now that’s a challenge and a half. I’m not sure Americans as a whole are even aware what their myths. I don’t mean Paul Bunyan and George Washington’s Cherry Tree, but, rather, the archetypal images behind those stories.

Where does Disneyland come in? Since 1955, Disneyland has served as both a sort of museum of these cultural myths AND creates – imagineers – how we perceive/interpret/understand/relate to these myths. While each land in the park captures the essence of each myth, we now define these myths by the Disney version. I don’t suggest that that’s a bad thing. I happen to like the Disney version a lot. But it has caused an interesting tension in our culture between Disneyphiles and Disneyphobics.